Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buckeye: Ohio State mascot, delicious dessert

It's that time of year.  Back to school?..you're thinking.  Fall maybe?  No, it's the time of year for those of us in central Ohio where we start seeing scarlet and gray everywhere we go along with OSU's mascot- the buckeye.  On the radio today I heard the Ohio State fight song, in the grocery store throughout football season they play the fight song all day on Saturdays.   Yesterday at the grocery store bakery the free cookies they were giving out to kids were...scarlet and gray sugar cookies.  Yes, Ohio State football season is in the air. 
But I have a confession to make:  I never even knew what a buckeye was until we moved to the Columbus area  a couple of years ago.  Now I know that although the plant is actually poisonous, this die hard Ohio State area has created a variety of foods involving the name 'buckeye'.  Out here if something has the word 'buckeye' in it, you can assume that means a combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  The most popular is of course a chocolate created to resemble an actual buckeye.  It's a delicious ball of sweet peanut butter yumminess, dipped in chocolate.  Who can say no to that?  It's like a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup in a different shape.  They are incredibly easy and everyone loves them. 

 Chocolate Buckeyes
1/2 C butter, room temp (I prefer sweet cream unsalted, and don't you dare use margarine)
1 lb powdered sugar
1/2 C Peanut butter (I prefer chunky)
1 t vanilla- please, I'm begging you, use the real stuff!
2 C ghirardelli chocolate chips
1 T white shortening (optional, only do this if you aren't up for tempering your chocolate)

Combine the butter, confectioners' sugar, peanut butter and the vanilla together and mix well. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on waxed paper. 
Melt the chocolate chips and shortening, stirring constantly. You can do this in a double boiler, or if you're lazy like me, I use a heavy bottomed sauce pan over low heat on the stove and keep a vigilant eye on it stirring constantly. Use a toothpick to dip balls into the melted chocolate, leaving a small uncovered area so balls resemble buckeyes. Place balls on waxed paper. Use fingers to blend in toothpick holes. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm. Enjoy! 

The Cooking Book Club

I just wanted to let everyone know about another blog I've started called The Cooking Book Club.  It's for those who love to read as well as cook.  I enjoy book clubs and when I go to our monthly meeting I often try to bake or cook something to bring along that I was inspired to make from the book.  So check it out if you're interested.  www.cookingbookclub.blogspot.com

Friday, August 27, 2010

Not Your Typical Birthday Cake- Lucious Lemon and Raspberry Cake

This week was Jared's birthday.  To tell you something about him, let me just say...we're a bit different when it comes to food.  When we met and got married he was very into Body For Life.  He ate things like tuna on rice crackers and rarely ate dessert.  Soon after we got married he was somewhat banned from the kitchen.  If he thought there was butter in something he wouldn't eat it, but if he didn't know...  I on the other hand could dedicate an entire blog to my love of butter.  I'm proud to say that I have slowly worn him down over the last eight years.  But in a surprise turn of events, last week Jared got out the Body For Life book and announced that he was going to go for it again.  So when his birthday came up a few days ago I wasn't sure what he'd want.  I knew he want something that appeared to be really healthy.  So he asked for a lemon cake, and this is what I came up with. 

But really when you compare it to a typical cake, it's much lighter.  The Recipe only uses 1/2 C veg oil, which keeps it moist.  And if you use light whipping cream, you can cut some calories there too.  Although I of course prefer Heavy Whipping Cream.  :)

This turned out really delicious and the only thing I would change would be to use more raspberries.  The lemon cake isn't as heavy as a pound cake but not quite as light as an angel food cake. 

Lucious Lemon Cake
1 3/4 C Cake Flour
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C veg oil
6 egg yolks
1/2 C lemon juice
1/4 C water
1 T lemon zest
6 egg whites
1/2 t cream of tartar
3/4 C white sugar
Whipping cream
Powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Stir to combine and get any lumps out.  Add the oil, yolks, juice, water, and zest then mix until smooth.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they start to thicken.  Then slowly add the white sugar and beat until thick and shiny and stiff peaks begin to form.  Fold egg whites into the batter. 
Pour into a prepared pan ( I love Pam for Baking with flour).  I used a typical angel food cake pan for this, but you can experiment with others if you like.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Keep an eye on it towards the end, you do not want to overbake this.  If it's overbaked, it will be dry and you want to be sure this cake is nice and moist because it's not going to be covered with frosting.  Cool on wire rack completely. 

Once the cake is cool, beat the whipping cream for the layers.  A good rule of thunb for whipped cream is to use about 1/4 C of powdered sugar for each cup of cream.  I used two cups of cream and beat until nice and thick.

Cut the cake into three even slices.  Place the bottom layer on your cake plate and top with about 1/3 of the cream.  Then cover this with raspberries.  Don't worry about making things look perfect.  I really like the rustic look of this cake.  Add the next layers and repeat until you've added the top layer.  I like to leave it here, but if you prefer you can top it with a little more cream and raspberries. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hazelnuts, Caramel, Chocolate...need I say more? Yes, actually, I have a lot more to say.

I don't know why, but hazelnuts are a bit difficult to find around here.  I guess they're just a bit too European for this Ohio suburb.  But I finally found a nice big bag of raw hazelnuts by going across town to Trader Joes.  Oh how I love Trader Joes.  It reminds be of being back in Portland.  I'd been wanting to try out a recipe I saw on TV a while back (I really love Rachel Allen).  But making this recipe turned out to be more of a learning experience than I expected.

Lesson #1- be prepared before you start.  So, this was supposed to be a tart.  But once I'd rolled out my favorite sweet tart dough, I couldn't find my tart pan anywhere!  I know these sort of things sometimes happen after a move, but it was frustrating.  So I settled on a round cake pan.  I patted the dough into place and popped it into the oven...which led to...

Lesson#2 I really know better, I do.  So why would I bake pastry dough without placing parchment filled with dry beans on top?  Maybe not having the right tart pan had just thrown my judgement momentarily, but really there's no excuse.  If you don't line your pie or tart dough, the sides will shrink right down!  You can check out my picture to see exactly what it looks like when this happens.  But I decided to keep going because I had already started.

So then I made the delicious and wonderfully easy caramel then stirred in the hazelnuts.  If you only have raw nuts, definitely take the time to roast them.  Nothing beats the crunch and flavor you get in roasted nuts.  I also like to salt mine.  I'm all about savory and sweet. 

Once that has been poured into the crust, make the ganache for the top.  By now, everyone is well aware of my love for ganache.  :)  But there was one little problem...

Lesson #3 - certain recipes should be made at the right temperature and humidity.  It had been very hot in Ohio and our poor air conditioner just couldn't get this house cool enough.  So, after pouring the ganache on the top for the final step, it never set properly.  I tried putting it in the fridge to harden up a bit, but it would melt again quickly once I brought it out again.  This is pretty clear from my last picture.

But you know, despite these learning experiences, this still tastes really delicious.  And the way the ganache ran down the sides ended up looking rather elegant I like to think.  The hazelnuts have a nice soft crunch and subtle flavor.  
Give it a try, but try to learn from my mistakes! :)

Caramel-Nut-Chocolate Layered Tart
for the full recipe (and a better picture) click on this link...